Odisha: Das stood up to BJD wave before joining Patnaik, managed Covid pandemic
Naba Kishore Das, 60, who succumbed to bullet injuries at Apollo hospital on Sunday, was among the few Congress leaders who could withstand the Naveen Patnaik wave for nearly two decades, winning electoral battles against BJD candidates, before smoking the peace pipe and joining Patnaik in 2019.
Das, a law graduate, was in politics from his college days and was elected as the Students’ Union president at Gangadhar Meher College at Sambalpur, one of the oldest colleges in western Odisha. He later became vice-president of Odisha NSUI and Odisha Youth Congress before becoming a member of OPCC. His rise was steady – AICC member and one of the working presidents of the OPCC - over the last two decades.
From the mining town of Jharsugada, Das is believed to be one of the richest members of Patnaik’s cabinet and has properties worth Rs 34 crore according to a property statement filed in 2022. Besides huge real estate holdings, the politician is believed to have about 80 vehicles.
Das won his first state election from Jharsuguda in 2009 on a Congress ticket by defeating BJD candidate Kishore Kumar Mohanty. He was again elected from Jharsuguda in 2014 by defeating Mohanty. However, 5 years later he decided that he needed to jump ship to join the very party he had been fighting against.
He is believed to have told the Congress leadership that his “people wanted him to be with Naveen Patnaik,” before leaving.
An ace politician from western Odisha, Das was also known for his organisational skill of which he gave proof when he managed the recent Padampur by-polls, where despite fears that it would be a neck-to-neck fight, the BJD candidate won by a handsome over 42,000 votes.
Considered a close confidant of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, Das, who took oath as a minister of health and family welfare on May 29, 2019, continued in his portfolio even when the chief minister came up with an overhaul of his cabinet last June. The health minister’s pro-active role during the COVID-19 pandemic, possibly ensured this vote of confidence by the BJD supremo.
Das is survived by wife Minati Das and a son and a daughter.
Naba Kisore, as his name indicates, was also a great devotee of Lord Krishna and was known for his generous donations to charity and to temples.
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